Tag Archive: food


World’s Tastiest Soup

Dear World,

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! It took me a few days, but I finally got around to making turkey soup. If you still have your turkey’s carcass lying around, here’s something you can do with it. If you threw it away, do not despair – the World’s Tastiest Soup can also be made with the remainders of a chicken, home-roasted or rotisserie.

You’ll need:

  • one roasted turkey, or the carcass of a roasted turkey
  • 2-3 large carrots
  • one onion, with the peel
  • 2-3 large celery ribs
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • peppercorns or ground pepper
  • salt
  • any soup vegetables
  • optionally: rice or pasta

Start by stripping all the meat off of the bones. Whatever you don’t eat right then and their, you can add to the soup later. Place the carcass in a large pot. Chop the onion (wash the skin and add it for color), celery and carrots and add to the pot, along with peeled garlic cloves, peppercorns and salt (one or two big pinches should do the trick). Fill the pot with water, and bring to a boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes.

When that’s done, turn the heat off, and discard everything (bones and veggies) but the stock. Add about 2 cups of water, and throw in anything you like. I used more carrots and celery, whole wheat rotini, turkey meat and frozen peas. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, skimming off the fat with a spoon every two minutes. Alternately, if you’d rather, you can simmer the soup for 10 minutes, let it cool, then easily skim the fat, which will have formed into a skin at the surface.

And there you have it! If you need to store it, freezing it in serving-sized tupperware is your safest bet. I will close this post with my first poll: I simply cannot go through Thanksgiving without having thirds of stuffing, so I thought I’d ask.

With love,

– Viola –

How Viola Stole Thanksgiving

Dear World,

After being freshly pressed, I stopped posting altogether. How was I going to outdo myself? How was I going to get thousands (yes, thousands) of views again? Then, I remembered that it didn’t matter. I’m just going to keep blogging the way I do. Just in time for Thanksgiving, I bring to you:

MY THANKSGIVING MENU

That’s right, folks. With the exception of the cranberry sauce, nothing on the table tomorrow will be of my invention. This year, I will trust the experts (Alton, Martha, Rachael, etc.)

WHAT DO TURKEYSHA, MARIE ANTOINETTE AND MADAME MAXIME HAVE IN COMMON?

They all were turkeys of my Thanksgivings past. After I name my turkey (because anything 10 lb or over needs a name), I will BRINE it overnight. This is what makes the turkey juicy and flavorful. *drools* Check out Alton Brown’s recipe here.

When it comes to glazing, however, I will opt for Gourmet’s Maple Glazed Turkey. I can’t believe this gem of a magazine stopped printing! The only magazine that tested every single recipe they ever published! And with the beautiful photographs!

Ok, I’m done now. Check out Gourmet’s recipe here.

GOT GRAVY?

I can’t eat turkey without gravy. It just won’t go down. This year, instead of my traditional white wine gravy, I will spice things up with a paprika gravy,  another stroke of Gourmet genius. The stuffing in this recipe also looks divine. Check out the recipe here.

YES WE CRAN(BERRY)

All my life, I’ve been afraid of fresh cranberries. They are so uncommon in Europe, I didn’t even know what a cranberry looked like growing up! Plus, the stuff from the can looks really neat when you can get it out in its perfect cylindrical shape.

This year, I’m owning my fear: I’m making sauce from scratch! I’ll still buy a couple of cans, just in case things go horribly wrong (you never know). The recipe I found was from Simply Recipes (the photo sold me). Check it out here.

GETTING STUFFED

And now, my favorite part: the stuffing. I used to make three batches of stuffing, the same every year: one with celery and bread cooked inside the turkey, one with celery and bread cooked with turkey giblet broth, and one with just bread and celery, for the poor vegetarians who suffer throughout Thanksgiving.

This tradition of plain stuffing has gotten old, so I will go wild this year with Gourmet’s (again) Wild Rice, Apple and Dried Cranberry Stuffing, which you can find here.

YAM-MA LAMMA DING DONG

Now the sweet potato casserole, I refuse to change. It’s my father’s father’s mother’s (so, my great-grandmother’s) recipe. I usually have a strong aversion to anything labeled “casserole” (tuna, noodle, green bean, you name it), but I’ll gladly make an exception for this one.

You’ll need:

  • yams/sweet potatoes
  • 1 orange
  • maple syrup and/or brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • marshmallows

Peel yams, and cook in boiling water until soft. Mash yams, and mix with some zest and some juice of the orange (start with a little and taste as you go). Add a little maple syrup and/or brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for flavor. Put in casserole dish, and bake at 350˚F for 10 minutes. Top with marshmallows, and resume baking until marshmallows are toasted.
PINING FOR PIE

I am no pie maker, but this recipe is easy and so delicious, no one believes I actually make it! The secret is tons of corn syrup (I know, I know, but it’s so tasty!). For a beautiful illustrated recipe, click here.
That’s it, folks. Happy Thanksgiving! Safe travel and much merriment to all!

With love,

– Viola –

This morning, I tried a second time to make protein powder pancakes. This time, they were neither oozy nor gooey, and not so hard that you could sit on one without squishing it. But they were still very tough and hard to swallow.

Irritated and upset, I needed to cook something that would taste good. There was a bag of bruised and overripe apples on the table, and with a cheerier disposition (apparently, rotten fruit makes my day), I started making applesauce.

You’ll need:

  • 6-7 big apples, all of the same or mix & matched (a little overripe/bruised is ok, maybe even better!)
  • 2 cups water
  • honey or brown sugar (let’s say 1/3 – 1 cup)
  • cinnamon (1 stick, or 1 tbsp ground)
  • nutmeg (1/4 tsp freshly ground, or 2 tsp ground)
  • cloves (6-10 whole, or 1 tsp ground)
  • optionally: rum or brandy
  • optionally: raisins

Peel and chop apples into little pieces. Cooking tip of the day #1: An easy way to remove the core is to quarter your apples, then cut the quarters in half. The little triangle of core is easy to cut out.

 

 

Place the apple bits in a medium-large

saucepan with about 2 cups of water, and

cook on high heat, stirring frequently.

When the mixture starts bubbling, bring

down to a simmer. The

water will thicken, and the apples will get mushy.

Eventually, your apples will look like this:

When they do, turn off the heat and let them cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a blender. Blend only for 10-15 seconds. If you like your applesauce on the chunky side, only blend half of the apples.

 

Return blended apples to the saucepan, add about 2 tbsp rum or brandy, the spices, and honey or sugar (start with just a little, and taste as you go). The rum/brandy is optional, but it improves the taste, and all the alcohol gets cooked away anyway. Any kind of mulling spice goes nicely in applesauce.


Simmer for 5-10 minutes, and eat hot or cold! It smelled so good, that Sebastian, Fabian and I decided to have a hot applesauce degustation. The boys were very engrossed in some stupid video game they were playing, but I did get a positive review from Fabian without having to fish for it (as opposed to certain boyfriends, who just keep shooting imaginary foes instead of joining the real world).

 

Tasty variant: add raisins to the applesauce after you cook it (raisins get bitter when boiled in the sauce). Though this sauce tastes great on its own, it also goes very well with yogurt, pork chops, latkes and ice-cream.

That’s it for now! Happy daylight savings day! Enjoy the extra hour.

Love,

– Viola –

Failed Pancakes

Stuffed butternut squash. 3-bean chili. Zucchini fritters. Layer cake. For weeks, I’ve brought you fail-proof, home-tested, mouth-watering recipes. But it wouldn’t be honest to tell you that it always all turns out picture perfect. While I do luck out often, I undercook, mix measurements, and also have a horrible tendency to carbonize things on a regular basis.

This morning was one of those mornings. Sebastian and I had gone to the gym on an empty stomach and were cranky. I wanted to make protein powder pancakes, but couldn’t find the recipe I was looking for. After an hour of searching, I decided to make up my own.

The first two batches of silver dollars came out so tough that I could bang them on the side of the table without breaking them. So I added some milk to the batter, and the following batches came out liquid in the middle.

From left to right: Cement, Toughie, Oozy & Gooey

Sebastian was nice about it. He doused a couple of the rock hard ones with syrup and somehow managed to chew and swallow. And said that they were “fine.” Now, that’s love.

I’ll let you know when I find that good recipe for protein powder pancakes.

Stuffed Butternut Squash

Every Wednesday night, Sebastian, Fabian and their friend John gather in the basement and play batá drums (no, they’re not santoria, they just like the music). I’m living with heathens (and loving it, as long as they’re done by 11 PM).

So, every Wednesday night, I try to cook up something tasty for the boys. Tonight, since I had a squash lying around and some ground beef in the fridge, I decided to make stuffed butternut squash. I didn’t have a recipe, nor did I find a good one on the internet, so I kind of made up my own as I went.

I used:

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 – 3/4 lb. ground beef
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 of a small yellow onion

Preheat your oven to 360˚F, and cut your squash in half the long way. Cooking tip of the day #1: When slicing a butternut squash, it’s easier to start at the fat end. Scoop out the seeds and strings, and rub some vegetable or canola oil on the inside of each half. Put the halves face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 20 minutes.

While the squash is baking, mince the carrot, celery, onion and garlic. Over medium-high heat, toss 1 tbsp olive oil and the onion in a big pan. Add the beef, carrot, celery and garlic. Salt and pepper, and cook until lightly browned before removing from the heat.

Uh…the beef is not browned in this picture. But it’s the only picture that came out ok. Sorry!

Anyway. Once the squash has cooked for 20 minutes, flip the halves over, and fill the cavities with the beef (I had to dig out some of the butternut flesh to make room). Bake for an extra 20 minutes. Serve hot!

My father taught me the art of improvised cooking.. He does read and follow recipes on occasion, but generally, he just makes it up as he goes. Most of the time, it turns out great, but sometimes, it doesn’t work out. It depends on your gut and your luck.

Today, my luck and gut served me well (so far). Sebastian’s friend, Olivia, came to pick up a set of timpani she’d let the boys borrow. I invited her to stay over for lunch, and much to my delight, she accepted!

First, I tested one little gnocchi from last night (refer to previous post for recipe), but the dough hadn’t survived in the fridge overnight. So I started to make some of my dad’s ZUCCHINI FRITTERS.

You’ll need:

  • two or three zucchinis (washed, not peeled)
  • one or two eggs
  • flour or cornmeal (1/4 – 3/4 cup)

Grate the zucchinis into little strips (not too thin). Mix with enough egg and cornmeal so that the zucchini sticks together (you have to feel for it, I can’t give you a good measurement). Then, I drop silver-dollar pancake sized dollops on a heated skillet with just a tablespoon of olive oil, and fry the batter on each side until golden brown.

While I was doing the fritters, Olivia insisted that she should be put to work, too, so I asked her to chop some onion and the rest of the portobello mushrooms I didn’t use last night. We sauteed the mushrooms and onions in a little olive oil, and added a little balsamic vinegar when they were almost done (about 5-10 minutes). When they were done, we put the mushrooms aside in a bowl. Then, I pulled out some week old homemade pumpkin bread (not terribly fresh, but still good!), and toasted about four slices in the same pan used for the mushrooms, with a little olive oil.

I served the mushroom on top of the pan-toasted pumpkin bread, and the fritters in little stacks with sriracha. How’s that for a pretty healthy meal? And for a vegetarian lunch, it was quite filling! We bonded over good food, and decided to get drinks this coming Tuesday after work. Oh, and we’re going shopping this afternoon. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, guys, but I think Olivia might turn out to be a friend!

With enthusiasm and love,

– Viola –

So I got off my ass and got to baking. Found this recipe on the Quaker Oats website, decided to tweak a little.

I used:

  • 1 1/3 cups instant oats
  • 2 cups white all purpose flour (I mixed 1 1/2 cups whole wheat with 1/2 cup white flour)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp fresh or 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (my idea!)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar –> I replaced this with 3/4 cup honey, it was a GREAT IDEA!
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin (canned, or freshly cooked)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • optionally: raisins, walnuts, or chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350˚F. Mix the dry ingredients (oatmeal, flour, baking soda, and spices) in a medium bowl, and put aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar/honey with an electric mixer until the mixture thoroughly becomes light and fluffy. Add the egg, pumpkin and vanilla (I don’t actually measure it out, I just give a generous splash). Your mixture should look like this:

Add the dry ingredients in two installments. Mix briefly with the electric beater, then finish mixing with a spoon.

 

If you have raisins or nuts (or even chocolate chips), now’s the time to add them. The cookies are also fine plain. I save the chocolate chips for drizzling (see instructions below).

 

 

Using two tablespoons (or a small ice-cream scoop), form little balls of dough and display on a cookie sheet (NOT GREASED! the cookies won’t stick, they have a crap ton of butter in them). Each ball should be about 1/2 – 1 inch apart.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until edges begin to brown. I like to cool the cookies for two minutes on the tray (they keep cooking, even outside the oven), then transfer them to a cooling rack, or a paper towel.

While the cookies were cooling, I microwaved four small handfuls of chocolate chips until they were melted (pausing every 30 seconds  to stir – it’s VERY easy to burn chocolate). What I should’ve done then was spoon the chocolate into a pastry bag, using the thinnest nozzle available. Since I’m kind of a cheapo and don’t own a pastry bag, I went with a plastic ziplock sandwich bag – just snip a tiny bit off the corner, and viola! You have a 7 cent pastry bag. The result? Very good, until the bag split and released a large chocolate slug on the cookie I was attempting to drizzle. So, if like me, you’re too cheap to get a real pastry bag (or don’t want to deal with cleaning one up), just drizzle the chocolate from a knife. The bag makes the lines very neat, though.

2:57 PM: Got back from the produce store with fresh sage, ginger root, zucchini and a sweet onion. Taking a lunch break (leftover pizza) in front of the TV, watching “The Ramen Girl.” I figured that watching a bunch of foodie movies could restore my love for cooking, since they got me inspired to start in the first place.

5 MOVIES THAT WILL MAKE YOU AWESOME IN THE KITCHEN ARE:

  • Tampopo: This beautiful japanese movie focuses on the art of making ramen. Composed of small, humorous, sometimes unrelated scenes, it will make your mouth water. Watch out for the…ahem…interesting interludes.
  • Julie/Julia: Another very inspiration flick about Julia Child and Julie Powell. Both of these women just make me want to cook, cook, and cook more. Plus, Amy Adams and Meryl Streep are wonderful!
  • Chocolat: This one may be pour in cooking scenes, but is a good insight on the temperament of a cook at heart.
  • Ratatouille: I couldn’t believe that any animated movie would make me salivate as much as this one has! Totally charming, very inspiring.
  • Simply Irresistible: Poor acting, not a lot of actual food scenes, but I love the idea of provoking emotions through food.

There are other movies, but these are the ones that stand out the most in my memory.

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